News, Springfield

Dark skies loom over Patrician residents

SPRINGFIELD – Springfield City Council’s meeting room was packed for the third reading of a controversial proposed rezoning ordinance of the Patrician Mobile Home Park Monday night.
In March, park owner Richard Boyles of Urban Transitions LLC requested the 13.6 acres be rezoned from a low density residential area to a mixed use commercial area. The final decision will be rendered at the Oct. 21 city council meeting, though council deliberation Monday night leaned in favor of rezoning.
Public comment has been closed since Sept. 18, but Patrician residents filled the chambers to get a glimpse of what their future may hold. If the park is rezoned, the 130 primarily elderly and disabled residents of the park are concerned that they will be displaced without reasonable compensation for their homes and left with no place to go.
What it ultimately boils down to, despite the emotional nature of this decision, councilor Sean VanGordon said, is whether or not Boyles meets the criteria to have the park property rezoned, not necessarily what the long term use of the park is.
“I have to sit down and look at it from an objective point of view – as much as it tears my heart out,” Councilor Marilee Woodrow said. “I totally understand and empathize with everything that is going on. But in the position I’m in I have to look at, not only the impact of a decision based on criteria in your situation, but any other situation that might come to the city or the council, looking at something that meets criteria,” she said.
“My vote will be in favor of the rezoning.”
Councilor Joe Pishioneri said that he understands that, “this is big stuff for a lot of folks, but I can’t do emotional votes.” He noted how decisions must be based on facts and allowable criteria, and “clearly what is allowed is changing the zone.”
Councilor Sheri Moore said she knows that the residents of the park will be affected, “But we don’t have the power to save them, I am very much aware of that. But I also feel at this point in time housing is a priority and they are in desperate need of housing.” She said. “I would deny the zone change.”
Councilor Leonard Stoehr said that, “the fact is, as Councilor Moore said, it is not in (council’s) authority to tell the owner of the mobile home park what to do with it.”
Councilor Leonard Stoehr said that the eloquence and the heartfelt testimony that heard from residents did not go unheeded.
“I know that it touched my heart, and I suspect it touched the hearts of everybody here on the council,” Stoehr said. “The greatest need, the greatest need to me is housing for the very people who live at the Patrician Mobile Home Park.”
Stoehr said that council has no authority to preserve this housing, but “the question is whether we want to give an incentive to reducing the housing level in Gateway. It seems to me that if there is one mandate and one priority that the Council should have it is preserving and expanding the housing in Springfield, and I am going to be casting my vote on that basis.”
Councilor Steve Moe said that previously mobile homes were considered mobile and that they could easily be accommodated. “That thinking was wrong,” he said. “Mobile homes are no longer mobile.”
Moe said mobile home owners and new property owners should have realized that time would run out and begin planning for the future and that didn’t happen.
“As much as we would like to keep this going, it should have been done long ago, we can’t do it now,” he said. “No matter what we decide the property owner still has a right to control his own property. Council has no options, we can approve or deny. Residents have no say. It’s not right, we cannot go back.”
Mayor Lundberg pressed in for a clearer decision on how Moe might lean.
“Unfortunately, based on this, I would have to support the rezoning,” Moe said.
Mayor Christine Lundberg noted the disadvantage mobile home owners have by not owning the land beneath their homes.
“If you don’t own the land you are in a much more vulnerable position,” she said.
At the conclusion of the council’s deliberations, most of the room emptied, slowly with murmuring displeasure from the large gathering. Mayor Lundberg requested Police Chief Richard Lewis to step in and assist with ushering the crowd out, so the council could continue with its further business.